Monday 11 December 2017

Baywatch's real-life beach: Sun, sea and eye-wateringly tight swimwear

American Holidays

Jon Bass plays Ronnie, Alex Daddario plays Summer, Zac Efron plays Matt Brody, Dwayne Johnson plays Mitch Buchannon, Kelly Rohrbach plays CJ Parker, and Ilfenesh Hadera plays Stephanie Holden in Baywatch. PA Photo/Paramount.
Jon Bass plays Ronnie, Alex Daddario plays Summer, Zac Efron plays Matt Brody, Dwayne Johnson plays Mitch Buchannon, Kelly Rohrbach plays CJ Parker, and Ilfenesh Hadera plays Stephanie Holden in Baywatch. PA Photo/Paramount.
Zac Efron plays Matt Brody and Dwayne Johnson plays Mitch Buchannon in Baywatch. PA Photo/Paramount.
The entrance to Tybee Island. PA Photo/thinkstockphotos. WARNING: This picture must only be used to accompany PA Feature
Sunset on Tybee Island: PA Photo/thinkstockphotos.
Laura on Tybee island. See PA Feature TRAVEL Baywatch. PA Photo/Laura Ivill.

Laura Ivill

Baywatch is hitting the big screen, but those famous red cossies are as skimpy as ever. Laura Ivill heads to the coast of Georgia to discover where the seaside caper was filmed.

Set on golden sun-drenched beaches and starring the likes of Pammy and the Hoff, Baywatch may have been pure cheese but it was also one of the most-watched TV shows ever, with a weekly audience of 1.1 billion in 148 countries worldwide.

Now, with our appetite for Nineties nostalgia in full swing, the lifeguards are back - this time in an action-comedy reboot for the big screen, with original favourites Pamela Anderson and David Hasselhoff in cameo roles. So when the call came to explore the movie's beach location, Tybee Island, I made sure I was first in line - who doesn't love to bury their toes in powder-white sand on the lookout for hunks in trunks?

But Tybee Island's not in Malibu, or even Hawaii - it's in the state of Georgia, a scenic drive up the coast from Florida. It's Gone With The Wind territory, America's Deep South of cotton plantations, fresh-water swamps, salt marshes, shrimping and alligators. Gnarly, centuries-old oak trees are draped in eerie shawls of Spanish moss, only 20 miles from where Forrest Gump sat on a bench in a leafy square recounting his life story.

Sunset on Tybee Island: PA Photo/thinkstockphotos.
Sunset on Tybee Island: PA Photo/thinkstockphotos.

I'm exploring Georgia's chain of holiday islands, easily accessible on a road trip and rich in both history and wildlife. However, this afternoon on Tybee's three-mile beach, I'm mostly watching a handful of fit young men strapped into stunt kites. This is where a huge obstacle course was set up for Baywatch filming last summer, with dunes and surf the perfect backdrop for the action-comedy antics of stars Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson, Zac Efron and Kelly Rohrbach.

Local girl Hannah comes to the beach most evenings and remembers the cast and crew hanging out in town, ordering burgers from seafront restaurant Fannie's On The Beach and getting stuck into huge sharing plates of seafood at The Crab Shack. Johnson was rumoured to be renting Sandra Bullock's four-bedroom plantation home in Tybee. Mates' rates maybe?

The seaside town is a mixture of charming old detached homes, with verandas and rocking chairs where locals sit out on the hot, humid summer nights. Unfortunately, a hurricane last October took away the dunes that screened the main part of the beach from the car park and badly damaged the pier.

But the area has a lived-in, seaside feel, much treasured by the descendants of those that have had homes here since the Twenties, and have seen the dirt tracks replaced by tarmac only recently.

Laura on Tybee island. See PA Feature TRAVEL Baywatch. PA Photo/Laura Ivill.
Laura on Tybee island. See PA Feature TRAVEL Baywatch. PA Photo/Laura Ivill.

Wide open beaches surround the island, ideal for picnics, beach games, jogging, water sports, jet-skiing, dolphin-watching and lazing in the sun. This semi-tropical coast has idyllic temperatures in spring and autumn, and the sea breezes take out some of the humid summer heat that hangs around a toasty 27-32C.

Tybee is an easy 18-mile drive from Georgia's second city, the historic trade port of Savannah. It's a gem, sometimes described as a "mini-Charleston" (the historic port city across the river in South Carolina), with its own picturesque, leafy and walkable downtown area.

When the town was founded in 1733, the first settlement was based on a grid system and formed 24 "pocket parks". Many years later, one of these even provided a backdrop for that famous scene in Forrest Gump. Although don't go looking for his bench there - the iconic prop is now in the Savannah History Museum.

Who knows; if the new Baywatch movie matches the success of the original TV show, perhaps some of those red floats and tight trunks might end up on display behind a glass cabinet too?

Zac Efron plays Matt Brody and Dwayne Johnson plays Mitch Buchannon in Baywatch. PA Photo/Paramount.
Zac Efron plays Matt Brody and Dwayne Johnson plays Mitch Buchannon in Baywatch. PA Photo/Paramount.

Get there

Laura Ivill was a guest of visittybee.com and VisitTheUSA.co.uk.

America As You Like It (americaasyoulikeit.com) has a 10-night holiday to Florida and Georgia from £1,519/€1,741pp (based on two sharing). The price includes flights from Gatwick to Orlando, returning from Savannah to Heathrow, accommodation and 10 days' economy car hire.

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